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Member Of High School Choir Quits Over Islamic Song Selection

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (CBS4) - A school district in Grand Junction is standing up for a high school music teacher after a student complained about a song being sung in the men's choir club.

The song is called Zikr and it is composed in the style of Islamic prayer chants.

"I think there would be a lot of outrage if we made a Muslim choir sing Jesus is the only truth," said Grand Junction High School senior James Harper. "In the Bible you don't worship another God. This is another God, even another prophet."

Harper, a Christian who was in the choir up until recently, said that once he looked over the translation of the song he felt uncomfortable singing it.

"I don't want to seem like a racist or a bigot or anything I'm just really rather uncomfortable any religion singing to any other god makes me uncomfortable. It's not just exclusive to the Muslims," Harper told CBS4 partner KREX-TV. "I really don't feel it is appropriate for students in a public high school to be singing an Islamic worship song."

Harper quit the choir and also asked school leaders for the song to be pulled from an upcoming performance. He said he thinks it's not a song that should be sung by students in a public school setting.

School District 51 spokesman Jeff Kirtland said that won't happen; school officials stand behind choir instructor Marcia Wieland's musical selections for what he stressed is a voluntary club choir.

"School choirs are going to be engaged in singing religious types of songs," district spokesman Jeff Kirtland said. "Choral music is devoted to religious themes. It does not discriminate and does not discriminate against any one religion."

Kirtland told KREX-TV that this "is about bringing diversity to the students and showing them other things that are out there."

Since Harper raised concerns about the song several parents at the school have stepped forward in support of Wieland and the song.

"I thought it was fine, I've heard him sing Christian songs, Hebrew songs, I've heard him sing all sorts of songs," said parent Chris Mahre. "I asked him how he felt performing that and he said, well, he felt comfortable because it wasn't necessarily an expression of his own beliefs."

The composer of Zikr, A.R. Rahman, a Muslim, has said it is not intended for a worship ceremony but it is composed in the Sufi prayer style. It's an upbeat and rhythmic song which is, according to the sheet music, is meant to be performed in a "Slow, Meditative and Mysterious" fashion.

Wieland said she knew their might be questions about the song after she chose it so she asked choir members read an English translation. She also encouraged them to view a YouTube video that features the music.

View a YouTube clip of the song below:

AR Rahman Zikr-e-Allahu الرحمن HD by MAWJ SHIFA HOUSE on YouTube

The song has been performed by other choirs in the United States.


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